NEW DELHI: The big pre-poll churn has begun. A top BSP leader in Uttar Pradesh, Swami Prasad Maurya, quit his party to hobnob with rivals, including the BJP. After being on the verge of quitting, Navjot Singh Sidhu is back in the Punjab BJP core group. The Northeast parties’ alliance, with the BJP at helm, is meeting in Guwahati to finalise its charter for the region. Sacked Congressmen in Uttarakhand are ensconced in the saffron party. The BJP’s game plan for five state Assembly elections scheduled early next year — a tougher contest this time — is set.
Odds first. The BJP is in power in Punjab (as an alliance partner) and Goa. If it loses any of these states to anti-incumbency, it will break its record of retaining power in party-ruled states where elections have been held since 2013. If the BJP manages to dislodge two Congress governments — in Uttarakhand and Manipur — it can move closer to achieving Modi’s dream of “Congress-mukt Bharat”.
While Uttar Pradesh is hogging all the limelight, BJP chief Amit Shah is also focusing on other four states. He is in Uttarakhand to strategise. Sources said he would also address a rally in religiously significant Hardwar to launch a fresh offensive against the Harish Rawat government.
Shah will then travel to Guwahati on July 13 to hold a meeting with the newly floated North Eastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a conglomerate of regional parties. It will set the tone for the BJP’s campaign in neighbouring Manipur, where the party won two seats in a bypoll, sending a chilling message to the Congress government, led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. He has been in power for three terms. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav is the man for this region.
He was in Assam this week to hold a similar strategy meet of NEDA. A party source explained, “It will let the nationalist party to gain roots in the region. Moreover in 2019 elections, the BJP can aim to target 20 seats, even if there is anti-incumbency in some other regions of the country.”
Punjab is a cause of worry for the BJP as the Amarinder Singh-led Congress and the AAP are making gains. The BJP has introduced its best bet, Sidhu, into the arena, despite the fact that the ally SAD is opposed to him. Though the BJP will continue the alliance, it is looking at carving out its own independent identity. Sidhu, with his gift of gab, can blunt Amarinder and Arvind Kejriwal’s edge.
Goa, the smallest state among all the poll-bound Assemblies, is facing a public spat between BJP and the RSS over language issues, where the latter’s state in-charge even threatened to work against the local government in elections. The AAP will prove to be a challenge. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, an IITian, will be used extensively to counter fellow IITian Kejriwal.